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Billboard draws stares, distracts drivers

Dec. 20, 2012 at 4:22 PM

COUNTRYSIDE, Ill., Dec. 20 (UPI) -- A car dealership's billboard alongside a Chicago-area expressway is turning heads, though in an age of distracted drivers not in the way it was intended.

Autobarn Volkswagon of Countryside, Ill., began a marketing campaign that saw QR codes being pasted on the sides of loaner cars given to customers with a message instructing passers-by to scan them with a smart phone for "THE BEST PASSAT DEAL OF YOUR LIFE."

A billboard with the same language and QR code was put up along Interstate 55, the hope being motorists would connect the dots and scan the QR codes on the loaners if they saw one, the Chicago Tribune said Thursday.

"We thought it would be a cute idea," said Ryan Graham, general manager of the dealership.

Instead, motorists have been sticking their phones out the window while driving on the highway, known locally as the Stevenson, attempting to scan the code on the billboard.

"The intention was never for a driver to stick their phones out the window on the Stevenson at 65 mph to scan the billboard,'' Graham said.

Readers complained to the Tribune about the hazard the billboard has created -- in a construction zone, no less. A call to Volkswagon's corporate office drew a rebuke of the advertisement.

"We've asked the dealer to take it down as soon as possible," said Scott Vazin, vice president of communications for Volkswagen of America Inc. "That billboard is exactly the message we don't want to send to the public" about distracted driving.

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